There are many issues to struggle with when first learning guitar, but they can be divided into two camps. The first is stretching, as in “my fingers won’t stretch far enough to create the chord”, and the second is something like “my fingers are too fat to fit altogether”.
Today I want to talk about the “fat finger” dilemma.
Usually when a beginner complains that their fingers are too fat it’s because they’re struggling with the A chord. Let’s start there, and then I can give you more general ideas that will apply to fingering chords in general.
A common form of the A chord when you’re first learning is putting your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers altogether on the 2nd fret. Usually students can finger the chord even if their fingers are fairly thick if they don’t try to get the fingers in a straight line.
You’ll want to angle your fingers so that the 1st finger is back quite a bit compared to the 3rd finger. Work to make sure that the strings still make good contact with the 2nd fret and don’t buzz.
Another alternative form I use fairly often is a two finger a chord. To make this chord you’ll use your 1st finger to cover both the 4th and 3rd strings at the 2nd fret. Then I use your 2nd finger to play the 2nd string.
You’ll need to raise your knuckles high enough in the air so your fingers don’t touch the 1st string. It may be a little difficult at first but with practice you’ll find it a very useful fingering.
A 3rd fingering is to make the a court with the 2nd 3rd and 4th fingers. Because the 4th fingerpicking is smaller it takes less space. This is not a fingering I use often and it’s not my 1st go to when students complain of having large fingers.
When I use this form it’s because I want the 1st finger free to do something else.
If your hands are on the larger side you may want to consider using a classical or nylon string guitar which has a wider neck.
The nylon string guitar sounds different than the steel string acoustic guitar. This may or may not be a good choice for you depending on the style of music you want to play in the sound that you prefer.
Another possibility is a 12 string guitar with a little creative adjustment. What we’ll do is convert the 12 string guitar into a 6 string guitar.
Normally a 12 string guitar uses pairs of strings. To make it a 6 guitar just remove the higher string from each of the pairs. When you do that you end up with a 6 string guitar that has a wider neck and the strings a little farther apart. This is actually a reasonable solution if your hands are big and you want the acoustic steel string sound.
Now that I’ve dealt with some of the practical issues concerning large fingers and playing the guitar I want to talk about what I would consider sometimes more likely the underlying issue.
I have found over the years that even though students think that there’s some physical problem keeping them from playing guitar, it often is more about underestimating what they can do with practice.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a guitar with a wider neck or other adjustments that may help. I’m just suggesting that you consider that there may be more to the issue.
When learning a new skill like playing guitar most everything will seem awkward at first. It takes patience, practice and persistence. And fortunately in the process you develop more patience and persistence.
I’d encourage you to check out another lesson I created that will go more into detail as well as give you some more ideas to help with fingering chords.